Tuesday, 16 August 2016


Andisibe is the nearest large rain forest to the capital city of Antananarivo in Madagascar.

Although it is less than 200 kilometres it takes three hours to reach as the road is very busy and there are not many opportunities for safe overtaking.

The journey out started well with a hamerkop seen flying over the road less than 50 kilometres out of the city. However this was the only addition to my country list while travelling out.

The main regional guide describes August as part of the dry, cool season in Andasibe. I disagree. There is no such thing as a dry season at Andasibe. There is a wet season and a very wet season. The least wet month is October with 75 mm (3 inches). October is also the warmest month and so October and late September is when most bird tours visit.

My main holidays don't allow an October visit so August it was.

It was cool bordering on cold and wet. The light was mostly poor and dappled too so photography was very difficult.

Madagascar bulbul

Only a Madagascar bulbul made it easy for me at the start of a guided tour round Perinet Park. By the way guides are complusory but mine, Claude, was very knowledgeable and his part of the park is run communally. So the funds collected go to the village.

At the entrance to the park was a pair of Madagascar blue pigeon high up a dead tree.

Madagascar blue pigeon

Inside, I had requested to find Madagascar pygmy kingfisher so we spent more time than most in the denser woodland. It was one bird we didn't managed to see though it was heard.

A majority of foreign visitors come for the lemurs. Ironically we saw all three types of lemurs which are active in the day including Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur

Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur

This is the rarest of the three and one which guides often struggle to find for their clients. As we were out birding, it proven easy for us!

Indri lemur

By far the noisiest lemur and the largest was Indri lemur. It also has only a very small tail and is often erroneously called tailless.

As we walked around we picked up four types of vanga. Vanga are endemic only to Madagsacr and in one case the near-by Comores. The four were: Red-tailed Vanga, Chabert Vanga, Blue Vanga, Ward's Vanga. Each one normally holds a different position highwise in the forest. However Claude told me that after a rainy and cold night, most birds move up to the high canopy to gain warmth from the sun. Indeed only red-tailed vanga was eventually seen at eye level.

Other birds with more obvious places in the forest were two greenbuls. These were spectacled greenbul and long-billed greenbul. Both were in dense low lying bush. Other relatively low birds were common newtonia, common jery and green jery. Though once again the cold weather pushed them higher than usuall apparently.

female Madagascar buzzard

A small clearing in the forest produced a flurry of additions to my list. Not least was Madagascar buzzard. The regional guide says that the amount of brown on the breast is highly variable. Claude had a reason why. He said that the male bird is all white while the female has the brown.

male Madagascar buzzard

I have no reason to doubt him particularly as the birds tried mating right in front of us. The plumage features matched the positions taken. 

Other additions at the clearing included a single Madagascar starling, my only one of the trip.

female Madagascar magpie robin

Two others were a female Madagascar magpie robin and a male Nelicourvi Weaver.

Another highlight of the park was a sleeping Madagascar scops owl which Claude had seen regularly until two months before but had returned that day to one of its sleeping spots. Even though I got within two metres of the bird I could not take a photo as it was in a dark place. I don't carry a torch with me in daytime so my camera would not focus for a flash photograph. I suppose it was good news for the sleeping bird.

One of the last birds we saw was (finally) a blue coua.

In all, we walked round the park for six hours left just as it stated to rain again around noon.

I had two hours free time the next morning before my return to Antananarivo and it had started a little less grey than the day before. I decided to walk up the road to see if I could add any better photos for this blog.

male Souimanga Sunbird

A distant Souimanga sunbird was hardly a good photo but was better than a previous one I had taken.

tree boa

While walking I spotted one of the species of tree boa native to Madagascar. The island doesn't have any highly venomous snakes and of course boas are constrictors anyway.

Near the nearest hamlet down the road I came across my only Ashy cuckooshrike of the trip. It behaved well for photography.

Ashy cuckooshrike

There was a crested drongo near-by and a Madagascar wagtail was seen within the village.

crested drongo

There is an office of the Association des guides d'Andasibe in thr hamlet. I recommend you ask any guide you see if they are a member. This is a guarantee of quality though some are generalists, some are lemur specialists, some botany and a few are birders. 

the local nature guides association

Rather cruelly, the weather became brighter in the two hours before I was due to leave. For example the picture of a Madagascar blue pigeon below is better than any I managed in the gloom of the day before.

Madagascar blue pigeon

In the last few minutes before departure there was bright sunshine. Outsied my chalet, mobile flock of Madagascar munia were moving on the high grass and low bush. I wonder where they go during the rains?

A glimpe of a Madagascar munia

There were completely blue skies as I left, though I doubt it would have lasted for too long.

Madagascar bee-eater with blue sky

The way back to the city gave me two late adds to my country list. A striated heron was seen on the edge of a flooded paddyfield. Unusally straited heron are seen inland throughout the country. Soon after a few Madagascar black swift were all observed.

In retrospect I should have got out of the city earlier. If there is a next time Iwill know.

List of birds seen at Andisibe
Madagascar Buzzard
Madagascar Green-Pigeon
Madagascar Blue-Pigeon
Blue Coua
Madagascar Coucal
Malagasy Scops-Owl
Madagascar Bee-eater
Lesser Vasa-Parrot
Common Newtonia
Red-tailed Vanga
Chabert Vanga
Blue Vanga
Ward's Vanga
Ashy Cuckooshrike
Crested Drongo
Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher
Madagascar Bulbul
Madagascar Brush-Warbler
Common Jery
Green Jery
Madagascar Magpie-Robin
Madagascar Starling
Souimanga Sunbird
Madagascar Wagtail
Nelicourvi Weaver
Madagascar Munia

1 comment:

  1. Hey Robert! Just catching up on your blog and the last several posts have been so fascinating! I just wanted to say keep up the good work. You have created something super interesting that I always enjoy reading :) Best of luck with your future travels!